Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Drummond, Robert Hay

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DRUMMOND, ROBERT HAY (1711–1776), archbishop of York, second son of George Hay, viscount Dupplin (who succeeded his father as seventh earl of Kinnoull, 1719), and Abigail, the youngest daughter of Robert Harley, earl of Oxford, lord high treasurer, was born in London on 10 Nov. 1711. His birth is mentioned by Swift in the ‘Letters to Stella,’ and his infancy is thus referred to by Bentley in the dedication of his edition of Horace to Lord Oxford, 8 Dec. 1711: ‘Parvulos duos ex filia nepotes, quorum alter a matre adhuc rubet.’ When six years old he was ‘carried’ by Matthew Prior to Westminster School, of which Dr. Freind was then head-master, where he remained ‘admired,’ we are told, ‘for his talents, and beloved for the pleasantry of his manners, and forming many valuable friendships among his schoolfellows.’ While a boy at Westminster, when acting in ‘Julius Cæsar’ before George II and Queen Caroline, his intrepidity in proceeding with his part when his plume of ostrich feathers had caught fire attracted the notice of the queen, who continued his warm patroness till her death in 1737. From Westminster he removed to Christ Church, Oxford. Having taken his B.A. degree 25 Nov. 1731, he joined his cousin, Thomas, duke of Leeds, in the ‘grand tour,’ from which he came home in 1735, in the opinion of his uncle not only ‘untainted, but much improved’ (Earl of Oxford to Swift, 19 June 1735). He had been originally destined for the army, but on his return to England he went back to Christ Church, took his M.A. degree 13 June 1735, and read divinity with a view to his entrance into holy orders. In the year of his ordination he was presented by his uncle to the family living of Bothal, Northumberland, and by the influence of Queen Caroline, when only in his twenty-fifth year, appointed to a royal chaplaincy. In 1739, as heir of his great-grandfather, William, first viscount Strathallan, who had entailed a portion of his Perthshire estates to form a provision for the second son of the Kinnoull family, he assumed the name and arms of Drummond. As royal chaplain he gained the confidence and esteem of George II, whom he attended during the German campaign of 1743, and on 7 July of that year preached the thanksgiving sermon for the victory of Dettingen before the king at Hanau. On his return to England he entered on a prebendal stall at Westminster, to which he had been appointed by his royal patron in the preceding April (Le Neve, ed. Hardy, iii. 366). On 9 June 1745 he was admitted B.D. and D.D. at Oxford. Drummond was consecrated bishop of St. Asaph in Kensington Church 24 April 1748. The thirteen years spent by him in this see were among the happiest of his life. He was deservedly respected, and we are told that he ‘constantly mentioned the diocese with peculiar affection and delight.’ He would seem to have dispensed the large patronage of the see with sound judgment. He was not, however, in advance of his age. He made no attempt to popularise the church among the Welsh-speaking population of the diocese, and publicly expressed his hope that ‘that people would see it their best interest to enlarge their views and notions, and to unite with the rest of their fellow-subjects in language as well as in government’ (Charity Schools Sermon, 1753). In 1761 Drummond was translated to Salisbury. Here, however, he remained only a few months. He was elected to Salisbury in June; the following August the see of York became vacant by the death of Archbishop Gilbert, and Drummond was at once chosen as his successor. ‘Previous to the coronation,’ writes Horace Walpole, ‘the vacant bishoprics were bestowed. York was given to Drummond, a man of parts and of the world,’ and ‘a dignified and accomplished prelate.’ His election took place 3 Oct., and his confirmation 23 Oct. As a proof of the high esteem in which he was held and of his reputation as a preacher, he was selected while archbishop-designate to preach the sermon at the coronation of George III and Queen Charlotte, 22 Sept. 1761. This sermon was pronounced by contemporary critics as ‘sensible and spirited,’ and ‘free from fulsome panegyrick.’ The style is dignified and the language well chosen, and the relative duties of monarch and subjects are set forth without flattery and without compromise. Drummond now became lord high almoner to the young king. He is stated to have reformed many abuses connected with the office, and to have put a stop to the system by which persons of rank and wealth had been accustomed to make use of the royal bounty to secure a provision for persons having private claims upon them. During the life of George II Drummond, who was a whig and an adherent of the Duke of Newcastle, exercised considerable political power, and was an influential speaker in the House of Lords. In 1753, when a charge was laid before the privy council against Bishop Johnson of Gloucester, together with Mr. Stone and William Murray, afterwards Lord Mansfield [q. v.], of having drunk the Pretender's health, he defended his old schoolfellows with so much earnestness and eloquence that he secured their acquittal, and the proposed inquiry was negatived in the House of Lords by a large majority, George II remarking that ‘he was indeed a man to make a friend of.’ The change of policy which speedily followed the accession of George III, when indignities were heaped upon the leading members of the old whig party, aroused the indignation and disgust of the archbishop. Except when his duty as a churchman called for it, he ceased his attendance at the House of Lords, and retiring to his own private mansion at Brodsworth in Yorkshire, of which we are told he ‘made an elegant retreat,’ he devoted himself to the vigorous oversight of his diocese and the education of his children, which he personally superintended. In 1749 he married Henrietta, daughter of Peter Auriol, a merchant of London, by whom he had a numerous family. He instructed his children himself. History, of which he had an extensive and accurate knowledge, was his favourite subject, and his son gratefully records ‘the perspicuous and engaging manner’ in which he imparted his instruction, and the lucidity with which he traced the continuity and connection of all history, sacred and profane, ‘with the zeal and fervour of honest conviction.’ For the use of his children he drew up some clear and comprehensive chronological tables. As a bishop he was certainly quite on a level with the standard of his age. A somewhat extensive collection of his letters existing in manuscript proves him to have been a good, sensible, practical man of business. In his religious views he was strongly opposed to Calvinism, and did not scruple to express freely his dislike of passages in the Articles and Homilies which appeared to favour those tenets. He fully shared in the suspicion which in that age of formality attached to the term ‘enthusiasm,’ which he vehemently denounced, while he was equally ardent in defence of what he styled ‘the decent services and rational doctrines of the church of England.’ Noble manners, an engaging disposition, affable and condescending address, a genial and good-humoured bearing, even if some allowance is made for partiality in description, make up an attractive portrait. His hospitality was generous, even to excess, and if the gossip of the day is to be credited his own example did not place any severe restraint on the clergy who gathered round his table. On his death Horace Walpole speaks of him as ‘a sensible, worldly man, but much addicted to his bottle’ (Walpole, Last Diaries, ii. 8–9). His son more guardedly records that ‘wherever he lived hospitality presided; wherever he was present elegance, festivity, and good humour were sure to be found. His very failings were those of a heart warm even to impetuosity.’ His open-handed, generous character was manifested in the splendid additions he made to the archiepiscopal palace at Bishopthorpe, where he also erected a new gateway, ornamented the chapel at great cost, and rebuilt the parish church in the taste of the day. It deserves notice that, in an age when the fine arts suffered from prevalent neglect, the archbishop proved himself a liberal patron of English artists (Lecky, Hist. of England in the Eighteenth Cent. vi. 161). In 1766 he lost his eldest daughter at the age of sixteen, and in 1773 his wife died. He never recovered this last blow, and died at Bishopthorpe 10 Dec. 1776. By his own desire he was buried under the altar of the parish church, with as little pomp as possible. Of his five sons the eldest, Robert Auriol, succeeded his uncle, Thomas Hay [q. v.], as ninth earl of Kinnoull, 1787. Six of the archbishop's sermons which had been printed separately at the time of their delivery were collected by his youngest son, the Rev. George Hay Drummond, and published in one volume, Edinburgh, 1803, together with a short memoir and ‘A Letter on Theological Study.’ These sermons display clearness of thought and force of expression, the matter is sensible and to the point, the composition is good, and the language dignified. The ‘Letter on Theological Study’ was written to a young friend, and not intended for publication. The advice as to the selection of books is very sensible, and free from narrowness, wide reading being recommended, including works not strictly theological. A portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds was engraved by Watson. A small medallion portrait is prefixed to his sermons.

[Memoirs of his life by his son, prefixed to his Sermons; Cassan's Lives of the Bishops of Salisbury, pp. 284–303; Walpole's History and Diaries; sources referred to in the article.]

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